Diesel-guzzling trucks will have to pay an environment surcharge to enter Delhi, the Supreme Court indicated Friday in a move aimed at reducing air pollution that is choking the Capital.
Buses, emergency vehicles such as ambulances and commercial vehicles carrying food supplies would be spared the environment compensation charge, which will vary from Rs 700 to Rs 1,300 per trip and will be in addition to the toll tax.
“Our order will override all other existing orders and will be effective for four months on trial basis. The state or any other bodies or association can seek its modification later if necessary,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu.
The National Green Tribunal had on October 7 ordered all commercial vehicles entering Delhi to pay an environment charge and suggested three slabs of Rs 500, Rs 700 and Rs 1,000 .
After perusing the NGT order and suggestions by senior advocate Harish Salve who petitioned the court, the SC said it would pass a formal order on October 12.
Expressing concern over poor quality of city’s air, rated the filthiest in the world by the WHO, the CJI said during the last hearing that his grandson wore a mask to school.
“When I asked him why he wore it, he said his school asked him to wear it. He looks like a Ninja with the mask,” the CJI said.
About 85,000 trucks entered the city every day and passed through the Capital to avoid paying toll tax, Salve, who is assisting the court on environment issues, had told the court.
The notification implementing its directions would be issued by the Delhi government, the court said, prompting its city’s counsel Dushyant Dave to seek a clarification on the pollution tax collection.
“The toll tax is collected by the municipal corporation. It might object if I (state) keep a surveillance or ask for the accounts,” senior advocate Dave said after Salve recommended that the money be handed over to the Delhi government.
Three civic bodies, all of which are BJP controlled, collect toll on the city’s borders. The ruling Aam Aadmi Party and civic bodies are often at loggerheads.
The court, which agreed to clarify on Dave’s submission in its order, said Salve’s suggestion to ask toll operators to switch to the radio-frequency identification (RFID) system, or smart tags, of collection from January should be enforced.
RFID is based on wireless technology and uses radio waves to collect information from a tag attached to an object and finds use in sectors such as supply chain management, manufacturing and retail.
Delhi has 127 entry points and private toll collectors are required to put in place an RFID system.
It had not yet been done because the contract didn’t specify any date, Salve said, adding, “the breach is because they want to hide the exact number of commercial vehicles that enter Delhi”.
He also mentioned a recent study by the Centre for Science and Environment that claimed the number of commercial vehicles entering Delhi was 70% more than what was officially believed.
Particulate matter 2.5 mm — the result of combustion from vehicles, power plants, and other industrial activities — is among the most common pollutant in the city and diesel its biggest contributor.